United Church of Christ Tackles Global Hunger
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That ‘all may be one’
By Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
There is a buzz in the United Church of Christ these days and it has to do with Mission: 1, a program we launched in November to address the needs of hungry people in the United States and abroad. Our goal for the first 11 days of November was to collect more than 1 million food items for local food banks, raise $111,111 in donations to hunger-related ministries and $111,111 for East Africa famine relief, and write 11,111 letters to Congress.
As of Nov. 11, members donated 1,121,825 food items, donated $76,055 to hunger ministries, $84,026 to famine relief, and wrote 31,529 letters to Congress!
Mission: 1 was an opportunity for us to live an answer to Jesus’ prayer “that they all may be one.” All settings of the UCC—local churches, conferences, associations, and various national settings, as well as UCC-related colleges, seminaries and social service agencies—were invited to participate.
This missional effort was grounded in one of our core values—changing lives. We believe our engagement in Mission: 1 changed the lives of those who are served with direct food aid, program grants, and improvements in government policy regarding foreign aid.
We were also changed in the process—as our awareness of poverty-related hunger increased and our resolve to advocate for change in government policy grew ever stronger.
By setting measurable goals and establishing an accessible means for everyone to monitor those goals, we challenged ourselves to do more and to do better. Local churches and other organizations participating in Mission: 1 could go to our website, ucc.org, and report their food and letter contributions and make online gifts to Mission: 1. Each day, we were able to measure our progress toward achieving our goals.
We are well aware that hunger is a reality that far exceeds the giving capacity of all churches and nonprofit relief agencies, so Mission: 1 was also about public policy advocacy. Changes in government food policy are essential if we are to see meaningful and sustained change in basic nutrition. With Mission: 1, we expanded that understanding by getting more people involved in writing letters to elected officials.
We are not alone in this effort, especially as we engage in public policy advocacy. For years we have partnered with Bread for the World in this work; with the letter-writing component of Mission: 1, we join again with Bread and its 2011 Offering of Letters. We are thankful for this partnership, and we celebrate all this partnership will accomplish in serving the real needs of real people.
Rev. Geoffrey A. Black is general minister and president of the United Church of Christ.